Turning the last page of the August edition of Money Magazine, I noticed an article, “Money Well Spent,” written by a quilter, Cindy Dawn. (2015 pg. 84). In 1983, while doing her military service in Germany, she stumbled upon the sale of a Pfaff sewing machine. She was 24 and hadn’t sewn a stitch since high school but, like any red-blooded American woman, she couldn’t resist a bargain. Forking over half a month’s pay, she allowed herself to dream her dreams.
Like many a well-laid plan that lies forgotten, the Pfaff sat used until 1992 when, on a visit with her grandmother, the older woman taught Cindy the rudiments of quilting. Those lessons were the beginning of an addiction. Home again, the granddaughter produced 4 quilts in succession — the first as an anniversary gift for her sister. After that, there was no looking back for her or the Pfaff she’d purchased 32 years earlier.
I’m no quilter but I adore both the art and the skill required to create one. If there’s a show in town, I rarely miss it. I’m a gawker, mainly. Quilts are deservedly expensive. On a splurge, the best I can afford is a pot holder. But in my 50s, a madness overtook me and I was determined to posses at least one, full-size quilt. For two years I searched for a design I liked and could afford. Then one day, I fell in love, truly in love. I might have mortgaged my house for the quilt I saw hanging loosely from a wire in a grange hall in Eastern Oregon. Fortunately, I didn’t have to. It was on sale and like a dog catching a Frisbee, I snapped it up.
A woman at the wrapping counter knew the quilt’s history. Mine had been an orphan quilt, discovered half finished in a thrift shop and rescued by the Trout Lake Sewing Circle. For three years, the group had dragged it from show to show but found no buyers. The day I stopped at the grange on my travel through Oregon, the women had slashed the price in half just to be rid of it. Call it fate or a miracle, the quilt and I had found each other.
Since that time, I have obtained one other quilt, a humble, square of patches, purchased at a Garlic Festival somewhere in the Columbia Gorge. Again the price was right and I loved the colors. I loved them so much, that the piece is well worn and has been repaired several times.
It should come as no surprise that at the retirement center where I now live, there are quilters. I’ve made friends with one and was delighted when she invited me to see her work. The room I entered was stacked ceiling high with quilts and baskets overflowing with swatches of cloth waiting to be stitched together. My eyes took in the array of colors, so many, that my brain tingled as if I were on a sugar high. I knew I had to have one of these glorious quilts. But could I afford one? I’d newly arrived at the center, had moving bills pending and more anticipated. I muttered the ridiculous sum I had available, expecting to be handed a pot holder.
“Take take this one,” the woman said, pulling a quilt from a bin overhead. Her gesture was casual as if she were a waiter offering me a menu.
When I saw what she’d placed in my hands, I blinked. Was she serious? Would she really part with this meadow of flowers and embroidered stitching for the sum I’d suggested?
I felt ashamed. The price I’d offered was ridiculous. I knew it. She knew it. “I’ve never been fond of it,” the woman shrugged as if to ease my embarrassment.
She was lying, of course. The quilt was too lovely to merit indifference. But I didn’t stand on scruples. I adored the quilt and paid the fee. Who can assess the price of beauty? Not me. The bargain, I’d received was a budding friendship.
(Originally posted 9/2/15)